To give your yard a polished look, particularly in those spots you can’t easily maintain with your lawnmower, consider using a cordless electric string trimmer. Compared to traditional, gas-powered string trimmers, electric models are easier to maintain because you don’t need to worry about mixing fuel or storing gasoline. Corded electric string trimmers are another option. However, a corded string trimmer must always be plugged into an outlet to operate, which limits your range of motion.
With a cordless electric string trimmer, you roam wherever you like on your property, cutting back overgrown areas for as much time as the battery charge allows. Check out some of the top cordless trimmers to find the best one for your yard maintenance needs.
- BEST OVERALL: WORX 20V PowerShare Cordless String Trimmer & Edger
- RUNNER UP: BLACK+DECKER 40V MAX String Trimmer/Edger
- BEST FOR SMALL YARDS: WORX GT Revolution 20V Grass Trimmer/Edger/Mini-Mower
- BEST FOR MIDSIZE YARDS: BLACK+DECKER LSTE523 Li-On String Trimmer
- BEST FOR LARGE YARDS: Makita 18V X2 LXT Brushless Cordless String Trimmer
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Cordless Trimmer
Right from the start, cordless string trimmers are simpler to operate than gas-powered trimmers because there’s no fuel to mix or time and energy spent yanking a pull-cord. Beyond that, a couple of additional factors will help determine how easy the tool is to operate.
When shopping for a string trimmer, keep in mind yard size, how often you’ll be using the tool, and who will be doing the actual trimming. The following key considerations will help you choose the right model for your needs.
Feed type pertains to how the tool releases an additional trimming line as it becomes frayed and broken during use. The standby is a bump feed where the user bumps the bottom of the trimmer (the area where the spool attaches) on the ground to release a few inches of line.
Some newer models feature an auto-feed sensor that gauges the length of the string and releases more when needed. Still, others feature a push button that releases more line. Auto and button feeds eliminate the need to bump the spool, which can reduce the risk of damage if bumped too hard, but many commercial-type trimmers still use bump feed because it’s quick and easy.
Curved Shaft vs. Straight Shaft
Some string trimmers feature a straight shaft that runs from the head of the trimmer to the end while other models feature a distinct curve in the shaft about two-thirds of the way down. Curved-shaft trimmers often are easier to operate since the spool end already rests at a handy angle for cutting weeds.
Straight shaft trimmers often accommodate interchangeable tools, such as a tree trimmer head, which can be swapped out depending on what you’ll be trimming. In general, straight shaft trimmers work better for users at least 6-feet tall, while shorter users benefit more from curved shaft trimmers.
Trim width, also called “swath width,” indicates how wide a path the trimmer will cut through weeds in a single pass. Many models on the market today feature swath widths of 10 to 18 inches. This tool specification is one factor that influences its efficiency.
Note that, the wider the width, the more power the trimmer requires. This results in a heavier trimmer because it will require a larger, more powerful battery.
Running a string trimmer requires a hefty dose of power, and most of today’s trimmers run on rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-on) batteries, but a few accept nickel cadmium (NiCad) batteries. Li-on batteries are more powerful but NiCad batteries are less expensive. Li-on batteries also are smaller and hold a charge longer.
NiCad batteries suffer from “memory effect,” meaning if the battery is used before it has fully charged—or if it’s recharged before its power depletes—it will remember the charge levels and won’t hold a longer charge in the future.
If you opt for a trimmer that has a NiCad battery, you’ll get the best results if you let it charge fully before use and drain completely before charging. For most users, a string trimmer with a Li-on battery will be the best choice.
Along with battery type, consider how much operating power the battery has, which is measured in volts. Today’s rechargeable string trimmer batteries average from 18 volts up to 60 volts of power; smaller yards generally require tools with a lower voltage, while larger lawns require more power to tackle more sizeable areas.
Batteries at the lower end of the voltage scale are sufficient for powering many string trimmers and one or two batteries are often included as part of a kit. More powerful batteries at the high end often are intended for commercial use and have a higher price tag to match. These trimmers often sell without a battery (or battery charger), which must be purchased separately.
Battery-powered string trimmers have a distinct advantage over gas-powered trimmers when it comes to noise pollution. Gas-powered trimmers are moderately loud, emitting an average of 90 decibels—or about the same loudness that a motorcycle makes when it passes by at a distance of 25 feet. By contrast, a cordless string trimmer emits approximately 77 decibels, which is comparable to the loudness of living room music.
Before picking up a string trimmer, keep in mind that this device is literally made for cutting through layers of tough cellulose plant fiber while hitting walls, rocks, and other objects at high speeds.
Always handle the string trimmer with proper precautions and consider products that have built-in safety features like debris guards, trigger switches, and padded grips to help reduce vibration.
- Debris guards are typically a half-circle shell made from protective plastic that sits around the string trimmer head to keep the user safe from flying grass, dirt, rocks, and other debris. Even with a guard, some flying grass can escape, which is why users need to wear safety glasses, long pants, and closed-toe shoes while working.
- Trigger switches are intended to prevent the trimmer from being turned on accidentally. It’s a simple feature that locks the trigger unless the switch is being held. With the switch held down, the trigger can be used normally.
- Padded grips on the shaft and handle of the power tool help reduce vibrations through the trimmer. Strong and continuous vibrations can cause muscle fatigue and strain, but this padding keeps the user’s hands protected and makes it easier to grip the trimmer.
With virtually any device, manufacturers and innovators offer extra features to improve their tools for users. With string trimmers, these additional features can include ergonomic handles, edging tools, and trimmer head attachments.
- Ergonomic handles make it easier to hold and maneuver the string trimmer, as oddly placed handles can mean a fight with the extended weight of the trimmer. The more suited the position of the handles to the natural movement of a human body, the easier the tool is to use with less muscle fatigue and the chance of injury.
- Edging tools are sometimes included as separate devices in a bundle with a string trimmer. However, there are string trimmers that have a built-in edging tool, allowing them to be used for both trimming and edging the lawn and garden. These combined edging and trimming tools are useful for small to medium yards, but it may be better to invest in a separate edging tool for homes with larger yards.
- Trimmer head attachments can include both saw and brush attachments. The saw is excellent for cutting through sticks and thick brush that have fallen, though it should not be used for logs or planks of wood. A brush attachment quickly cleans up the sidewalk or driveway after trimming by brushing stray grass and dirt back onto the lawn or into a lawn bag.
Our Top Picks
The best string trimmer should be durable, easy to use, and powerful enough to handle your individual weed-cutting needs. The models on this list are best suited to a variety of landscapes and users.
Trim with precision using this combination trimmer-edger from WORX. The tool features an adjustment that switches it instantly from trimming to edging to help you create crisp, clean lines along paths and walkways and around the perimeter of a lawn.
Running on a 20-volt lithium-ion battery, the WORX includes several features that make it extra user-friendly. For one, the head of the tool tilts to enable easier trimming on sloped terrain. For another, the WORX has a nifty spacer guard to help keep it a safe distance away from obstacles like tree trunks and shrubs.
This BLACK+DECKER trimmer features an auto-feed spool, so no bumping is necessary. Like our top pick, the tool converts to an edger for making clean cuts along sidewalks and drives. This 13-inch swath string trimmer comes with a 40V lithium-ion battery featuring a charge indicator, so users can see just how much trimming power remains before needing to recharge.
As a bonus, the battery is interchangeable with other BLACK+DECKER 36V and 40V cordless tools, which include a hedge trimmer and a snowblower.
This WORX trimmer and edger has modest power suitable for smaller yards, with a head that tilts up to 90 degrees for navigating around trees and garden beds with ease. The string trimmer comes with a handy spacer guard that keeps it from bumping into plants and the shaft adjusts to suit taller or shorter users.
At the push of a button, the trimming head converts to an edger that rolls easily along the edge of a sidewalk or driveway. It cuts a 12-inch swath and operates on a 20V, lithium-ion battery. Buyers get a charger and a battery, which is interchangeable with other WORX 20V cordless tools, including their 20V drill and leaf blower.
From the BLACK+DECKER family of power tools comes another great string trimmer option. This one is well suited for keeping mid-size yards in ship shape. The trimmer is a step up from the budget pick and features an ample 12-inch cutting swath. It comes with a dual-speed control to power up enough when necessary to chew through tough weeds or to operate at regular speed to get a clean, uniform cut along curbs and around tree trunks.
This tool comes with easy-feed technology that releases more cutting lines at the touch of a button and like other trimmers, it quickly converts to an edger. The shaft adjusts so the tool can be configured to users of different heights.
Large yards call for long-lasting power, and that’s what you get with the Makita. From a name synonymous with quality power tools, this cordless string trimmer runs on two, 18-volt lithium-ion batteries (not included) at once—for a total of 36 volts of power. The trimmer has two speeds to match the type and thickness of grass or weeds.
This Makita trimmer features bump feed line advancement and comes with a reverse rotation function, so the user can reverse the direction of the head if the line tangles in weeds. This high-powered trimmer will chew through unwanted weeds and grass in short order, making it a good choice for large yards. Only note that the Makita weighs a beefy 21 pounds and requires some arm muscle to maneuver and operate safely.
The Advantages of Owning a Cordless Trimmer
The portability of a cordless string trimmer means the user is not limited to cutting weeds by the length of an extension cord. Likewise, cordless trimmers offer certain advantages over gas-powered trimmers.
- Many manufacturers offer a line of power tools, such as leaf blowers, that accept the same rechargeable batteries used to run cordless string trimmers.
- Cordless string trimmers come with push-button start—no pull-cord cranking necessary.
- No need to store fuel and no-fume operation.
- Neighbors are sure to appreciate not waking up to the sound of a loud gas-powered trimmer at dawn.
FAQs About String Trimmers
If you’re still unsure about how to use a string trimmer or how an automatic feed system works, the following answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these tools may help.
Q. Can a string trimmer cut weeds?
A string trimmer is used to cut and control weed growth around the home and garden. However, light-duty trimmers may have issues with very dense weed growth.
Q. Can you use a string trimmer to cut grass?
A string trimmer can be used to cut grass, though you need to be careful not to cut the grass too short while trying to keep the trimmer balanced. It isn’t the easiest way to cut the grass, but it is possible.
Q. Can you edge with a string trimmer?
Yes, a string trimmer can be used for edging the garden, driveway, walkway, or sidewalk. If you have a large yard, it may be better to invest in a separate edging tool.
Q. How do you edge a lawn with a string trimmer?
Hold the string trimmer perpendicular to the lawn to keep the cut even. Position the head about 4 inches off the soil so the string has space to rotate. The string should rotate and cut through the grass and dirt. As you move along the desired borders, keep the head balanced and even. Clean up the cut grass and dirt to finish the job.
Q. How does an automatic feed string trimmer work?
The automatic feed system has a pre-wound head that uses centrifugal force to release and pull the string from the trimmer head. The system detects the length of the trimmer string and regularly self-corrects to the ideal length.
String trimmers, also called weed eaters or weed whackers, come in several different types and can range in size, weight, and features, so it’s important to look for a tool that suits your specific needs.
Gas trimmers are better for large yards with dense weed growth, offering more power compared to electric models. Between corded and cordless models, if you prioritize flexible movement over continuous power, opt for a cordless model.
When choosing between cordless trimmers, be sure to consider their safety features (among other factors). Additionally, it’s a good idea to invest in at least one extra battery to always have a spare on the charger. Now go on, get trimming!